Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring Break!

A whole week, at the end of March (2008), sandwiched between two weekends, for a total of nine days straight! A great time to do some spruce up jobs in the barn, and dust off the saddle, and start getting myself in shape, and begin again with Kate.
But first, I wanted to make sure her teeth wouldn't be an issue again, so I scheduled both she and Maddie into the vet's on the Monday of break to have the caps on their molars checked. Well, there's bad news, and then there's baaad news: NONE of their caps had fallen out on their own over the winter, so the vet needed to knock them out, with a very big mallet and what was basically a large cold chisel! Between the two of them, we lost seven caps (and four wolf teeth)! (And close to $600!) And then the baad news: no work for a week, and no bit in Kate's mouth for a month!
There goes my training schedule!

Finally, the first weekend of April, Kate came out of her early retirement. Saturday, I had to let go of my major trust issues, literally, by riding her without the security of a bit. No pictures, but I rode her in the round pen with just a rope halter.

Generally, when I start up a young one, after a winter off (or other extended period), I assume that they remember next to nothing of what they had learned previously. I return to square #1, with ground work and very easy expectations. We spent maybe 20 minutes lunging, with lots of transitions and turns and whoas. Then I mounted her, and Miss Kate was a perfect lady! I did feel that there was way too much lag time between starting to pick up on the lead/halter and actually connecting with her face for directions. With maybe fifteen minutes of walk/jog, we called it good and I put her up. Then I went to the tack room and put together my bosal.
On Sunday we had a very good ride.

Pretty relaxed about the whole riding thing.
Warm-up in the round pen.
A nice square and solid standstill for mounting--a must, in my book. (Kate... Wake up!)Lateral flexion, and checking to see if she understands the new hackamore communication system.A nice walk out. Some folks argue that the "peanut roller" frame that so many western pleasure horses have is not natural. As much as I hate the nose-in-the-dirt look, a relaxed neck, with the poll the highest point in the neck, is desirable, in my book. Kate assumes this frame naturally--in fact, here, her poll is actually a little low. But I really appreciate her forward attitude, and softness. She's stepping under herself very nicely.After some circles and figure-eights at the walk, we move up to the same at the jog. The round pen is probably about 50 feet in diameter at this point (I'll enlarge it as they get ready to start the lope, but we're not there, yet). Some of my turns are into the fence to start her sitting back on her hocks a bit.This is a much better back up than the previous summer, but that's partly because I have mostly started using my legs to cue her, rather than the dressage whip, and it's easier to generate the energy for the backup with even pressure at the girth with both legs, than with a single tap anywhere else. Still a little high-headed, though.Are we ready for the big wide world? Well, maybe the arena....

I haven't even asked for anything like a side-pass (remember, this is only Kate's fifth ride!) so she's a little farther from the gate than desirable, and I'm leaning a bit farther than I probably should on a baby. But Kate stood patiently while I reached over and down to unlatch the gate. I wasn't, however, able to maintain trail-horse-class control of the gate--I just pushed it away, so we had plenty of room to go through--didn't want to risk catching my toe or one of her hips, and scaring her.Hey, Mom! Let's go!This is one of my favorite photos of Kate. This pile of fill dirt was waiting to level up the far end of my "almost-an-arena." Kate was willing to give it a try, watching where she was going and careful with her feet.And turn around and go back up the other way, and down the back side.

Sharp turn to the fence line. Granted, this space at times has been part of Kate's turnout area, so there was nothing new or scary about it--other than the fact that she was carting me around!I did good, right Dad? Tell the peanut gallery over there that this is what being a horse is all about! (Amy and Maddie in the background.)Again, on and off both sides a couple of times. Kate's really worried about the whole affair.

I was beginning to really enjoy working with this filly. She was as laid back as any baby I've ever started. Did I really want to sell her? The question was soon to be raised.


  1. Yes, a very stressed and tense horse here. Must be the hard life she clearly has:) I really enjoyed the photos and commentary and, like you, loved the one climbing up and down the mound of fill. I never, in my one year of stable work, and maybe about 8 years with my horse, Sam, heard about caps. Sounds awful to have to knock them out with a chisel. Yikes! Poor Kate! She doesn't seem any the worse for the experience, though.

  2. Caps are just their "baby teeth." I hadn't really had any experience with them either 'til Kate and Maddie--all three of my previous foals were sold in the spring of their two-year-old year, and hadn't matured enough to have the problem. I have found baby incisors once or twice--in a bucket or by the hay feeder....

    The reason they're called "caps" is because some of the calcium from their roots is used in forming the new adult tooth coming in, so the new tooth actually "wears" a cap formed by the baby tooth. Once enough root has dissolved, the caps can come off, sometimes on their own, sometimes with help. The issue here was that the baby tooth wasn't far enough along in it's disintegation to loosen from the jaw, and the adult tooth had no where to go but down, into the jaw.

    Just as humans shed their baby teeth over time, I'm thinking the girls are now working up to the next set of molars, because I again see a hard nodule starting to form below their jaws, a little further back than the first time. I hope they'll shed them on their own this time around! But at least the problem won't be immediately adjacent to where the bit sits.

  3. Very interesting - thanks for taking the time to explain. Yes, shedding them on their own seems a better way to go than a chisel!